Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a super-fun action surprise. So, how does its sequel fare? Is it truly The Next Level, or is it a bit of a repetitive grind?
Set a year after events of the 2017 franchise reboot, the original cast returns, bolstered by a trio of big new names in Awkwafina, Danny Devito and Danny Glover.
Yes, somewhat akin to DLC for a big video game, we get new characters to play with, and what essentially amounts to a new boss level. But first, the setup.
Spencer, Fridge, Martha and Bethany’s plans to catch up again go awry when Spencer doesn’t show up. Concerned, the remaining trio visit his house, where they meet his grandfather Eddie along with the old timer’s pal Milo. But the big discovery is in the basement… Spencer kept the smashed parts of the Jumanji video game, and reassembled it. Fearing he’s stuck in there, the trio heroically decide to re-enter the fray. The game console fritzes, however, sucking in only Fridge and Martha, along with Eddie and Milo. Cue some different body swaps than last time, and another grand adventure – this time facing off against warlord Jurgen the Brutal (we really think there should be one or two umlauts in there somewhere.)
Naturally, our heroes must save the world of Jumanji once again, in order to escape the perilous clutches of the evil-infested game world. Even if they’re just CGI, those pythons and mandrills give decent darned scary!
Basically, Jumanji: The Next Level is more of the same, which is hardly a bad thing, as the key quartet have a brilliant onscreen chemistry.
Our biggest – and only real – criticism of proceedings involves the different combinations of body swaps that continue to switch about throughout, as well as the altering of the various characters’ in-game abilities. At times keeping track of all this tends to be incredibly distracting in a film that you should otherwise be able to completely switch to “Gah!” popcorn-shovelling mode for. Still, it does give the actors a chance to have some extra fun. Kevin Hart, in particular, expands his range from that typical loud little guy shtick that he does so well into giving great old man as his body is inhabited by Milo, while The Rock gives his typically appealing smouldering intensity™ even when he’s doing his best to channel Danny DeVito’s character.
Meanwhile, Awkwafina continues to impress, this time as new playable character Ming Fleetfoot, while we discover that character inhabitation can go beyond the human, as Bethany eventually rocks up in the body of a horse.
Much like that video game DLC that we mentioned, Jumanji: The Next Level expands upon what came before it, without unneeded reinvention. If you enjoyed the big-hearted fun of the first one then you’ll definitely get plenty of bang for buck here. Hopefully we’ll say the same about the next sequel, which is neatly set up at the end of this one…
In cinemas: December 26, 2019
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black
Directed by: Jake Kasdan